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"Why did Goodman Brown leave his wife to fulfill an evil purpose?" "What was his evil purpose?" "Who did he meet in the woods?" "Was it a dream or was it reality?" These are just a few of the questions that ran through my head after reading the short story, Young Goodman Brown. After several nights of reading, rereading, thinking, and debating I've received many revelations of this story; one being the true identity of the "fellow-traveler" mentioned throughout this adventurous tale. You see, he was not just any man, he was the devil himself.
In the beginning of the story, after Goodman Brown leaves his wife and begins his journey through the woods, fear starts overcoming him. He creeps slowly along the path in the forest and is in constant torment because he isn't sure of what lies behind every rock and tree. He even said out loud, "What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!" (Hawthorne 383). Then, just as he turns around, a man appears. How ironic. The man tells Goodman Brown that the "clock of the Old South was striking" as he came through Boston and that was "fifteen minutes agone" (Hawthorne 383). If thought is put into this statement, you will come to realize that this is impossible. The story took place in Salem Village and Boston is seventeen miles away from there. Traveling by horse, because that was the quickest way to travel in the 1800's, this journey would have taken an entire day; no one could have possibly made the trip in fifteen minutes.
Another sign that upholds the fact that the traveler is the devil is the staff that he carries. It bears "the likeness of a great black snake" and it seems at times to move "like a living serpent" (Hawthorne 384). Ever since the beginning of time, serpents have been an accepted symbol of evil. In the Garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by the devil in the form of a snake; and when she gave into the temptation, she caused all of humanity to fall into the bondage of sin. In the same way, the fellow-traveler tempts Goodman Brown by constantly persuading him onward into the forest, which in turn would crush his Faith.
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"Is the Fellow Traveler in Young Goodman Brown Friend or Foe?." 123HelpMe.com. 09 Dec 2019
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As they proceed to walk and talk in the forest, Goodman Brown begins explaining how honest and true his family was before him. They were all good Christians that would never walk alongside the company that he had now (the devil). The "elder person" then begins speaking of how well he knew Goodman Brown's family. He tells of how he helped his grandfather lash a Quaker woman, and how he helped his father set fire to an Indian village. Both evil deeds the man spoke of so proudly. He reassured Goodman Brown that Brown's family was friends of his and that they had taken many of the same walks along that same path he was taking right now.
Though Goodman Brown had a hard time believing his companion, his attention was soon redirected. Goody Cloyse was recognized in the far distance (the woman that catechized Goodman Brown). Because he was ashamed of his motivations for being in the woods, he ventured off the path and let the traveler walk on alone. When the man came within his staff's length of the woman, he touched her neck with tail's end of it. She then screamed, "The devil!" Subsequently, he replied, "Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend?" (Hawthorne 385). (Many people joke in today's society, calling each other the devil and such, but religion was taken very seriously in these days. This story occurred during the time of the Salem Witch Trails, so there was a great deal of fear of witches and evil doings.) She also begins referring to the man as "your worship" and recognizes that he is in the very image of Goodman Brown's grandfather (who has been dead for many years). Next, she speaks of a young man that is to be taken into communion that night (Goodman Brown). She explained how she was all ready for the meeting, but her broomstick was stolen and she had no quick way to get there (Hawthorne 385).. This woman is obviously a witch and is very comfortable proclaiming this fact around the traveler. As I said, she referred to the man as "your worship" numerous times. Most people would associate this phrase with priests or deacons, with men of God. No Christian man would ever hear of such talk about meetings in the woods and broomsticks without severe consequences, but this man offered her his staff to help her along. He encourages her to attend the evil meeting just as he encourages Goodman Brown throughout the story not to go back to Faith.
The story Young Goodman Brown is filled from beginning to end with all sorts of symbolism. After noting all of the details and characteristics about the man who travels with Goodman Brown, it is easy to clarify that he is indeed the devil himself. He is acknowledged by others as the evil one, he carries a snake staff, which is a mark of Satan, he travels at rapid speeds, and he is proud of helping others do immoral deeds. At the end of the story, the book reads that he speaks with "despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race" (Hawthorne 390). The man is undeniably the angel, Lucifer that was thrown from heaven. He is God's adversary. He is the devil.